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SLAC Joins ATLAS Collaboration

(Photo - ATLAS detector) You may have noticed the busy crowd at the SLAC Summer Institute this week. The theme of this year's summer institute is the Large Hadron Collider (LHC), a proton-proton collider under construction near Geneva, Switzerland. What you may not know is that SLAC is also officially participating in both the LHC accelerator and the experimental programs.

On July 14, SLAC was officially accepted into the ATLAS collaboration, a consortium of researchers and institutions working on the ATLAS (A Toroidal LHC ApparatuS) detector at the LHC. Shortly thereafter, the laboratory was named a Tier 2 Computing Center for the collaboration. This makes it one of a few dozen institutions around the world that will support the computing effort for the experiment's data analysis and simulation.

"We are delighted to be involved in what will be some of the most exciting physics of the next decade," said Persis Drell, Director of SLAC's Particle and Particle Astrophysics Directorate. "When the LHC data begins to flow we will finally start to probe the terascale. We've waited a long time for this moment. We all believe it is worth the wait."

ATLAS is one of four detectors currently being built at the LHC. ATLAS is designed to detect particles including the Higgs boson, which may be the source of mass for all matter. Findings may also offer insight into new theories of physics and improve our understanding of the origin of the universe.

Although SLAC officially joined the collaboration only last week, the lab has been actively engaged in the ATLAS project for the last several months. A team led by researchers Su Dong and Charlie Young is contributing to the challenging tasks that still remain in getting the detector ready for the first data taking. Their activities include commissioning of the pixel vertex detector that will be used to trace the decay of heavy particles and completing the design of the software trigger system for identifying collisions containing interesting physics signatures.

"There has been a tremendous build up of anticipation for the physics that will come out of the LHC," said Su Dong. "But the steps still needed to get a huge detector like ATLAS ready to be able to take data for physics are far from trivial. We are glad to be part of the collaboration bringing this very complex experiment online."

SLAC will also help take on the equally challenging demands of the LHC's large data volume by providing computing expertise to the U.S. ATLAS community. For the past five years, SLAC's BaBar experiment has been one of the most data-intensive experiments in the world, requiring a massive amount of computing and data analysis. This experience will be valuable in supporting the needs of the U.S. ATLAS community as data taking begins in 2007.

"We at SLAC are looking forward to the science of ATLAS, and to helping the U.S. user community be full participants in the excitement to come," said SLAC Director Jonathan Dorfan.

See the SLAC ATLAS webpage...
See the main ATLAS webpage...

—Su Dong and Kelen Tuttle
    SLAC Today, July 20, 2006

Above image: CERN's ATLAS detector (Image courtesy of Maximilien Brice.)